Bentley and Lotus at Le Mans: Twenty Five Years Apart

“Blow-in the Wind”

Bentley and Lotus at Le Mans: Twenty five Years apart


This article was simply prompted by the editors reading Posthumus “The British Competition Car” and the comparison the author made with the 4.5 L “Blown” Bentley of the early 1930’s era and that of the Lotus 1500 c.c. twenty-five years on.

The stark contrast registered with us and we consider it appropriate to analyse the developments that occurred in the interval between. This focuses on aspects of military and civil aviation and their impact and indeed adoption in automobiles.

There is a generation and cultural gap between these two significant British marques that allows an entertaining set of comparisons.In this study we also briefly examine brand and continuity.

We have dwelt on Lotus at Le Mans in some depth and will not repeat observations/analysis but subscribers may find the background and detailed information useful in this context.

Subscribers might like to see the directly relevant and integrated A&R pieces that complement and help structure this article:-

  • Lotus at Le Mans
  • Lotus types: Eleven, Fifteen, Elite
  • Tatra
  • British aviation linked
  • Buckminster Fuller and Dymaxion

Bentley: Brief details


“Bentley is one of those charismatic marques that has produced throughout its long and turbulent history, some of the most famous cars of the time. Founded in 1919 on high hopes but scant capital the marque delivered a wealth of cars ………..controlled since 1998 by the German automotive giant VW, Bentley is today associated with entirely new breed of supercars such as the Arnage, Azure, Brooklands coupe and Continental Speed models …………………….”

Stanford writing in the 1950’s commented:-

“Bentley’s aim had always been to introduce high performance cars into the luxuary class .In 1925 a substantial amount of financial backing was found for his firm by Woolf Barnato , the diamond millionaire , a much intensified competition career was undertaken with satisfactory results , the range of Bentley cars expanded considerably …………as time went on , the superiority of the 3 litre began to diminish and in 1927 it was virtually replaced by the 4.5 litre …………….maximum speed was some 85 mph in touring trim and in 1929 ……………its massive construction ,reliability and good all round handling the 4.5 Bentley dominated the British high-performance market in the late 1920’s even though equivalent performance could be had from very much handier cars of smaller capacity ………………….

During 1929 experimental work on the supercharged cars was carried out and in 1930 they became catalogued .A Roots blower was fitted between the front dumb irons and drew from two large SU carburettors which inhabited this somewhat vulnerable spot …………driven direct from the nose of the crankshaft , the blower delivered mixture at ten pounds pressure ………….as well as completely reliable ………apart from a tendency for the engine to boil at low speeds , due to considerable reduction of cooling are , the sole fault was a staggering fuel consumption , about 10mpg against the standard cars 16mpg………..on the other hand it in no respect impaired the flexibility and smoothness of the engine and produced a maximum of just about 100mph despite a weight of nearly two tons . The “Blower 405″ was the last big four –cylinder car to be made anywhere in the world, and about 50 were sold …………..”

“Bentley Motors was founded by W.O. Bentley. The first car to bear his name pulled out of New Street Mews, London in 1919.

From modest beginnings, the company moved from strength to strength – in a relentless pursuit of both luxury and performance. Were it not for the brand’s five victories at Le Mans in the 1920s, plus a sixth in 2003, this combination could be seen as a contradiction in terms. In which case, it could be said that Bentley continues to create the most acclaimed contradictions on the road today.

Almost a century later, W.O.’s vision continues to guide our beliefs, actions and ambitions. Located in Crewe, England and owned by Volkswagen AG since 1998, Bentley Motors remains the definitive British luxury car company, crafting the world’s most desirable high performance grand tourers.”

Manufacturer Bentley Motors Limited
  • 1927-1931
  • (supercharged model from 1929)
  • 720 produced
Assembly Cricklewood, UK
Designer Walter Owen Bentley
Body and chassis
Class Sports car chassis
Body style as arranged with coachbuilder by customer[1]
Layout FR layout
Related Blower Bentley (supercharged model)
Transmission 4-speed manual
  • Standard: 10 ft. 10 in (3,300 mm)[2]
  • SWB (8 made):[2] 117.5 in (2,980 mm)
Length 4,380 mm (172.4 in)
Width 1,740 mm (68.5 in)
Kerb weight
  • 4½ Litre: 1,625 kg (3,583


Figure 1.Editors sketch of Bentley

Marque Bentley 4.5 -litre
Model “Blower”
Years 1929-31
Engine in line 4
b/s 100x140mm
capacity 4,398cc
valves 4 per cylinder, single ohc
comp ratio 4.5 , 5.1 or 5.3 to 1
carburettors 2 SU and Villiers
supercharger 10psi max boost
power 182 bhp at 3,900 rpm
transmission 4 speed manual
suspension: Front beam axle half elliptical leaf springs ,friction type dampers
Rear [live] beam ditto
steering worm and wheel
brakes mechanical front /rear no servo
wheels centre lock wire 33×6.00 cross ply tyres
chassis/body separate ladder type ,steel chassis coach built open tourer
sports or closed bodies by specialists ,wooden frame
aluminium steel or fabric covering
length 14 ft. 7inch
width 5ft-8in
wheelbase 10-10.5
track f/r 4-8 /4-8
weight [typical] 3,808 lb
max.speed 100mph
fuel consumption 11-13mpg
price new 1929 chassis £1,150
coachwork typical £1,500
production 55 including 5 Birkin race cars]

Bentley at the 24 Hours of Le Mans –from wiki:-

“The 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race is a 24-hour race around the Circuit de la Sarthe. The inaugural race was held 26–27 May 1923, and attracted many drivers, mostly French.[3] There were two foreign competitors in the first race, Frank Clement and Canadian John Duff, the latter winning the 1924 competition in his personal car, a Bentley 3 Litre.

“Made with precision and the finest material,”[4] and with recent success, the luxurious Bentley cars attracted attention. After two years without success, Bentley convened a group of wealthy British men, “united by their love of insouciance, elegant tailoring, and a need for speed,” to renew Bentley’s success.[5] Both drivers and mechanics, these men, later nicknamed the “Bentley Boys“, drove Bentley automobiles to victory in several races between 1927 and 1931, including four consecutive wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and forged the brand’s reputation.[4] [5]

It was within this context that, in 1927, Bentley developed the Bentley 4½ Litre. Two cylinders were removed from the 6½ Litre model, reducing the displacement to 4.4 litres.[6] At the time, the 3 Litre and the 6½ Litre were already available, but the 3 Litre was an outdated, under-powered model and the 6½ Litre’s image was tarnished by poor tyre performance.[4] [7] [8]

The essential difference between the Bentley 4½ Litre and the Blower was the addition of a Roots-type supercharger to the Blower engine by engineer Amherst Villiers, who had also produced the supercharger. W. O. Bentley, as chief engineer of the company he had founded, refused to allow the engine to be modified to incorporate the supercharger. As a result, the supercharger was placed at the end of the crankshaft, in front of the radiator. This gave the Blower Bentley an easily recognisable appearance and also increased the car’s understeer due to the additional weight at the front.[16] A guard protected the two carburetters located at the compressor intake. Similar protection was used, both in the 4½ Litre and the Blower, for the fuel tank at the rear, because a flying stone punctured the 3 Litre of Frank Clement and John Duff during the first 24 Hours of Le Mans, which contributed to their defeat.[20] [21]

The crankshaft, pistons and lubrication system were special to the Blower engine.[10] It produced 175 hp (130 kW) at 3,500 rpm for the touring model [22] and 240 hp (180 kW) at 4,200 rpm for the racing version, which was more power than the Bentley 6½ Litre developed”


“it was a car that singularly failed to live up to expectations, and you could argue that the esteem in which the “Blower” Bentley ……….is still held is out of all proportion to its true worth. But that would be to miss the point entirely.

While it was never very successful in motor racing, to legions of worshippers this particular strain of Bentley is a symbol of a lost empire, one where fact and legend merge…………

Ultimately, the four-cylinder leviathan proved devastatingly quick-it held lap record at Brooklands for two years-but rarely lasted the distance……..

The “Blower “Bentley was the last of a dying breed: a proper completion car rather than a conveyance for plutocrats. The winged –B mascot has never sat on anything quite like it since”

Bentley, Blowers Birkin, “Bentley Boys” and Brooklands


” Although a vintage Bentley might look high , heavy and old fashioned by today’s standards we must never forget that in 1920’s it was always one of the fastest and most effective sports cars in the world . In that period Bentleys particularly works Bentleys – built up a formidable record in sports car motor racing …………five outright victories in eight years in the famous Le Mans …………………”


“In 1928 Barnato and Rubin drove a “four and a half” to victory at Le Mans to underline Bentley’ grip on this trial of endurance and speed.

Meanwhile Sir Henry “Tim “Birkin decided that to achieve optimum performance from WO’s design, supercharging should be adopted .the original designer never approved …………….always following the dictum that “there is no substitute for cubic inches” ……….the hon.Dorothy Paget financed Birkin’s plan …….and the cars were modified in her premises at Welyn…………..developed a staggering 240bhp at 4200 rpm but proved unreliable and incapable of translating the power to race victories .the supercharger operated well at consistently high speed such as those achieved on the Brooklands Outer Circuit banking ,and there Birkin very special single seater version excelled. A total of 54 “Blower” Bentleys was built, the vast majority for sale as road cars”

Originally belonging to Sir Henry ‘Tim Birkin, one of the original ‘Bentley Boys’ who enjoyed huge success at the Le Mans 24 Hours in the late 1920s and 1930s, the 1929 supercharged ‘blower’ single-seater’s final hammer price in the Bonhams auction was £5,042,000.

Talking about the car that once set a new speed record of 137mph at the old Brooklands circuit in Surrey, Doug Nye, historian at Bonhams, said: “It is wonderful to see this iconic car’s true value recognised by the world market.

“The Birkin single-seater Bentley was, in effect, the Concorde of its time, the fastest car around the high Brooklands bankings. It was driven by a great British hero in Sir Henry Birkin and was the most glamorous racing car of the era.”

Aerodynamics and Fascist economics

Inter war Aviation

The First World War gave a tremendous boost to aircraft development with regard to handling and performance. Typical forms of the era were the biplane – 2 wing arrangement, with bracing struts and wires. However, the considerable frontal area caused drag. From the net :-

“In the two decades between the end of World War I and the start of World War II, military aviation underwent a complete transformation. The typical combat aircraft of 1918 was a fabric-covered externally braced biplane with fixed landing gear and open cockpits. Few aero engines developed as much as 250 horsepower, and top speeds of 200 km (120 miles) per hour were exceptional. By 1939 the first-line combat aircraft of the major powers were all-metal monoplanes with retractable landing gear. Powered by engines that developed 1,000 horsepower or more and that were supercharged to permit flight at altitudes above 9,000 metres (30,000 feet), fighters were capable of exceeding 560 km (350 miles) per hour, and some bombers flew faster than 400 km (250 miles) per hour. Gyroscopically driven flight instruments and electrical cockpit lighting permitted flying at night and in adverse weather. Crews were seated in enclosed cockpits, were provided with oxygen for breathing at high altitudes, and could converse with other aircraft and ground stations by voice radio. Parachutes, worn by a few German fighter pilots in the last days of World War I, were standard equipment.

  • Jaray ,Rumpler gained some experience on Zeppelin construction
  • Dymaxion
  • Tatra
  • Hitler, fascism, German motorways and competitions, sponsorship of motorsport and speed records including 2000km ADAC Trials 1933-34.The motorway network assumed long distance travel and perhaps at high speed and with fuel economy demanded aerodynamics

The Zeppelin airships were a good description of the form and function. Like ocean liners there were steerable.

Jaray had been trained in airship design at a time when Germany was pioneering lighter-than-air flight. Having determined that the so-called spindle shape of an airship was ideally aerodynamic, Jaray cut it in half through the equator to form an automobile body. Further study determined that, in order to give the car stability, the half-spindle shape had to be tapered out into flat wings on either side of a tapered rear. The windshield was completely curved at almost 180 degrees to ideally direct air around the car rather than over it. The design was further refined, in an era before the widespread availability of wind tunnels, by means of threads attached to the body of a prototype; the prototype was then photographed at speed on the road, and the body’s curves then adjusted to the paths of the threads—what engineers called streamlines.

Some of the German automobile marques that adopted streamlining in the interwar period include: –

  • Mercedes Benz
  • Auto Union e.g. 1939 D type
  • BMW e.g. 328 2nd Index of Performance Le Mans 1939 [see below]
  • Adler [ see below]
  • Porsche
  • Opel
  • Maybach [see below]
  • VW
  • Talbot Lago 1937 T150
  • 1938 Dubonnet Xenia /Hispano Suiza
  • Tatra

1936 Adler Trumpf Rennwagen

German automaker Adler took Jaray’s philosophy to heart when creating the Rennlimousine (German for “racing sedan”), a model they based on the Trumpf chassis. Although it was powered by a relatively low-output 56bhp 1910cc 4-cylinder engine, the secret to the model’s success was its low drag coefficient. Adler entered the Trumpf Rennlimousine in the 2-litre class at the 1937 24 Hours of Le Mans, piloted by aces Otto Löhr and Paul von Guilleaume – they brought the car in 2nd in class and 9th overall.


“Far more interesting than beautiful, the Adler Le Mans cars are significant because of their early adoption of serious aerodynamic research and because the company dared offer such vehicles for sale.

Respected researcher Karl Ludvigsen attributes drag coefficient of 0.23-0.30 to the Adler’s, figures that are quite respectable almost seventy years later”

The production Adler’s of 2.5 L were capable of 85mph possessed a 55hp engine and over three years its been estimated 5,000 were sold .Retailing a RM 5,750 or approximately £300/$1,500 c 1939.

1939 Mayback Stromline from the net: –

Chassis and engine technologies, aerodynamically designed bodywork and the first motorways made high-speed driving possible. At the time, Fulda commissioned bodybuilder Dörr & Schreck in Frankfurt/Main with the manufacture of the test car – specifying a clear-cut condition: the car had to be capable of performing high-speed tests at over 200 km/h over longer periods of time. Dörr & Schreck accepted the challenge and chose Messrs. Maybach Motorenbau as cooperation partner for the project. With the support of Baron Reinhard Koenig-Fachsenfeld, an aerodynamicist renowned in professional circles, a streamlined three-seater based on the chassis of the Maybach SW 38 was created.

1939-Maybach-SW38-Stromlinie sw38-ds-01 sw38-ds-01 The Fulda coupé with self-supporting bodywork and two-tone finish featured a long, downward-sloping rear end. Seen from above, the silhouette was a rectangle with rounded corners. Like the under-floor, the rear wheel arches were completely covered, and even the door handles were partly recessed.

Fulfa-Mobil021 maybachfuldafahrgestel-1938 maybachfuldafahrgestel-1938 To give the car a top speed of over 200 km/h, as demanded by Fulda, the engineers installed a powerful six-cylinder engine with 140 hp (103 kW). The top speed was equally made possible by an unusually low drag coefficient of cd = 0.25 (as opposed to 0.6 customary for contemporary series-production cars). Another pre-condition was that the chassis was not to weigh more than 1.6 tons.

sw38-ds04 1294951651961 (1) 1294951651961 (1) However, the car was used to a very limited extent due to the outbreak of the Second World War. It disappeared in the turmoil of war and it had been missing since then. In 2005 Fulda asked Maybach again to produce a unique car to test their tires. I was named Maybach Exelero.

BMW 328 c 1937


“Fritz Fiedler was the designer responsible for the 328 and its predecessors and his six cylinder engine was renowned at the time for performing “with crisp suddenness that put it in the same class as the best overhead camshaft engines” it was also very reliable. The BMW 328 chassis meanwhile featured precise rack and pinion steering , live rear axle was suspended on semi elliptical leaf springs and the independent front suspension was by transverse leaf and wishbones, the result was the car set standards of road holding , cornering and driving precision which had seldom been known before certainly in never in Germany.

Of more significance worldwide was the way the 328 pioneered weight reduction and streamlining in a genuine production sports car. The car was able to produce exuberant performance from a basically humble specification and sell at a price most could afford …..A powerful, controllable and veritable design which has proved ageless…. at Le Mans in 1939 …took second place in the Index competition ………..”

Zumbrunn attributes the 328 to Kurt Joachimson………

1939 BMW 328 Mille Miglia Touring

According to Zumbrunn:-

“BMW built a few aerodynamic cars to its own designs, but they had none of the elegance of bodies by Carrozzeria Touring ………….Touring’s motto was:-

“Weight is the enemy –wind resistance is the obstacle”

Automobile Evolution between the World Wars from the net: –

The following are a representable cross section

  • 1932–1939 Alvis Speed 20 and Speed 25 — the first cars with all-synchromesh gearbox.[citation needed]
  • 1932–1948 Ford V-8 (Model B) — introduction of the powerful flathead V8 in mainstream vehicles, setting new performance and efficiency standards.
  • 1934–1938 Tatra 77 — first serial-produced car with aerodynamically design.
  • 1934–1940 Bugatti Type 57 — a singular refined automobile for the wealthy.
  • 1934–1956 Citroën Traction Avant — the first mass-produced front-wheel drive car, built with monocoque chassis.
  • 1936–1955 MG T series — sports cars with youth appeal at an affordable price.
  • 1938–2003 Volkswagen Beetle — a design for efficiency and low price, which was produced for over 60 years with minimal basic change; it has the largest production in history with over 20 million units produced in several counties. The car was awarded the fourth place in the international Car of the 20th Century competition. A new car echoing the styling of the original has been produced in the 21st century.
  • 1936–1939 Rolls-Royce Phantom III — V12 engined pinnacle of pre-war engineering, with technological advances not seen in most other manufacturers until the 1960s. Superior performance and quality

Schneider Trophy, Seaplanes and British Empire

Towards the end of World War One wood shortages amongst other factors persuaded many designers/ manufacturers to experiment with metal construction.

This they found to be actually superior along with the advent of more powerful engines and improved aerodynamics.

The first Schneider Trophy was in 1913. Significantly it was for flying boats which did not need large hard surface runways [ note connectivity with empire flying Boat service for passengers and mail.

  • The Supermarine S.6B is a British racing seaplane developed by R.J. Mitchell for the Supermarine company to take part in the Schneider Trophy competition of 1931. The S.6B marked the culmination of Mitchell’s quest to “perfect the design of the racing seaplane” and represented the cutting edge of aerodynamic technology.

The last in the line developed by Supermarine, it followed the S.4, S.5 and the S.6.[1] Mitchell and his team’s experience in designing high speed Schneider Trophy floatplanes greatly contributing to the development of the later Supermarine Spitfire, an iconic fighter and Britain’s most successful interceptor of World War II. [2]

The Supermarine S6B is worthy of detailed analysis. It was capable of over 300 mph.[e.g. in 1929 , 329 mph]

Its construction details included: –

  • Metal frame mono fuselage and wing integration- reduced drag [note cross section profile] Formed single seat monoplane
  • Possessed powerful new supercharged engine i.e. Rolls Royce “R” V12
  • Floats doubled up and carried fuel and oil [ also extra cooling]
  • Radiators also mounted in floats
  • Streamlined fuselage and extensive use of aluminium

Interwar aviation experienced expansion. It saw the growth of international passenger commercial flights and new airlines come into existence. Foremost amongst these was Imperial Airways, UK based and essentially serving British colonies, the commonwealth and Australia.

The USA also expanded its internal flight transportation networks some growing out of mail contracts.

Significant aircraft of the era included: –

  • The 1932 Short Saraford demonstrated the potential of flying boats.
  • The 1933 de Havilland Dragon
  • The 1933 Boeing 247 D capable of 180mph
  • Hanley Page bi-plane Hercules of 1930’s


Developments were driven in addition by: –

  • Empire Sea planes [commercial] flying globally from Britain to Africa etc. and beyond
  • Long distance air races [ see book reviews and articles etc. ]
  • Fashion, glamour speed and modernity associated with aviation /air travel and the increasing number of celebrities using this mode of transport

Military and aviation technology of the Second World War as applied to racing car design

  • Spitfire [Mitchell]
  • Wellington [Barnes Wallace] see Lotus chassis design etc.
  • Hurricane
  • Jet[Whittle]
  • Mosquito [De Havilland and Frank Costin etc.]
  • Materials, technology, structures, artesian craftsmanship. [ e.g. Williams & Pritchard] Note for example the Spitfire used cast alloy wheels that were light and strong [in advance of adoption in racing cars]

From the net: –

“The streamlined cantilever monoplane quickly proved its worth in almost every role, although a few older biplanes and other obsolescent types remained in niche roles for much of the war. Key design features during this period included:

  • Stressed-skin semi-monocoque construction, typically of aluminium light alloy but sometimes of wooden or mixed construction.
  • A clean, unbraced cantilever monoplane wing.
  • Conventional tail or empennage, with bombers often adopting twin tail fins, believed to improve stability during the bombing run.
  • Retracting landing gear of conventional configuration with a tailwheel or tailskid.
  • Landing flaps.
  • Variable-pitch propellers in tractor configuration.
  • Fully enclosed cockpit.

The retracting undercarriage gave landplanes a significant performance advantage over the equivalent seaplane, whose floats caused additional drag. In other respects, the evolution of seaplane design paralleled landplane developments. Seaplanes, typically flying boats, remained in use for long-range maritime operations. Smaller craft, typically floatplanes, remained in other niche areas such as mountain lakes where a runway was not feasible.[1]

Experiments on other configurations continued throughout the war, especially in Germany………….

War-induced technological leaps in aircraft design and performance recast the nature of air warfare. Streamlined, all-metal fighters replaced wood and fabric biplanes. With remote-controlled guns, pressurized cabins, and powerful engines, the Boeing B-29 Superfortress became the most advanced bomber of its day. Late in the war, the relentless process of technical refinement culminated with the debut of jet aircraft.”

Evolution of the Sports/Sports Racing Car 1920’s through 1950’s

Statistics various including Henshaw and Robson [see bibliography below]

Year Marque Model Body CC BHP Top spd W’b’ in. Wgt’lb Sales Retail £
1931 Alfa Rom’ 8C2300 Traditional
1938 Alfa Rom’ 8C2900 Early aero’ 180 130 25cwt 25cwt 3000
1952 Aston M’ DB2/4 Coupe 2922 162 120 N/A N/A N/A
Aston M’ DBR1 50’s aerody
c1929 Bentley 4.5L Traditional 103
c1920’s Bugatti 35A Traditional
Bugatti 57 Aero-trans’ 125
1947 Cisitalia 202 Integrated-C
1953 Ferrari 375MM Coupe
c1948 Ferrari 166MM* Aero-trans’ 1995 108 15 96 1760 36
1949 Jaguar XK120 Aero-trans’ 3442 160 120-126 102 2929 12,055
c1930 Jaguar SS100 Traditional 3485 125 92-100 104 2680 N/A
1951-53 Jaguar C Type 50’s aerody 200 140+ 2075
1954 Jaguar D Type 50’s aerody 162/170 1930
1957 Jaguar XKSS 50’s aerody 3442 246 144 N/A 2015 12 to 16
1947 Maserati A6GCS Traditional
1957 Maserati 450S 50’s aerody
1930’s Mercedes SSK Traditional 125
1955 Mercedes 300SLR 50’s aerody
c1950’s Mercedes 300SL Coupe 2996 215 165 95 3000 3250
1937 BMW 328 Aero-trans’ 1971 80-150 110 94.5 1700 467
1950’s Porsche 1600 50’s aerody 1582 75 112 83 1940 5981
1952 Lotus Mk.VI Traditional various various c 90 87.5 90 chassis c100

Lotus: Brief details

We consider there is no need for explanation here other than to direct subscribers to our related articles.

Chapman embraced aviation engineering, adopted its principles and his colleagues like Frank Costin were from this discipline. Chapman was pilot as well as superb racing driver.

Chapman was polymath involved in road/race car design, manufacturing, consultancy and diversification. He and Lotus were multiple F1 World Champions for drivers and constructors.

Lotus did well at Le Mans [see dedicated article] and achieved considerable success in the index of Performance with the Eleven and Elite.

Lotus Eleven

See A&R dedicated articles; including Le Mans.This specification from Taylor

Model Eleven
Year 1956-58
Volume 270
Engine Coventry Climax FWA or FWB
C.C. 1098 or 1460
Carburation Twin SU
Power Output 75-100 bhp
Transmission Austin/Lotus A30 4 speed or MG TC
Chassis Multi tubular space frame
Body Aluminium
Front Suspension Swing axle and coil spring dampers , double wishbones on S2
Rear Suspension de Dion axle with twin radius rods , coil spring dampers
Brakes F/R 9.5 inch Girling discs inboard at rear
Wheels F/R 15wires
Tyres F/R 4.50 x 15 / 5.50×15
Length 134 inches
Width 60 inches
Height 37 inches
Wheelbase 85 inches
Track 46.5 /47 inches
Weight 1019 lbs.


Figure 2.Editors sketch of Lotus Eleven

Learning Opportunities

Our learning /educational opportunities are intended to be challenging thought provoking and requiring additional research and/or analysis.

These opportunities are particularly designed for a museum/education centre location where visitors would be able to enjoy access to all the structured resources available in conjunction with any concurrent exhibition.

In this instance we suggest the following might be appropriate:-

  • Study the careers of Jaques Saoutchk,Gustav Chedru,Wilhelm Kaiser and Meyerhuber and Peter Szymanowski
  • Distinguish between Deco inspired designs and aerodynamics
  • Outline German’s military and civilian aircraft manufacturers of interwar period
  • To what extent is Supermarine related to Spitfire?
  • The Spitfire is a cultural icon can the Bentley and Lotus be classed in same way?
  • Which Bugatti type won at Le Mans and to what extent was it aerodynamic?
  • Outline links between national economic policy and motor racing
  • Enumerate aerodynamic features on Lotus cars built up to 1960
  • Obtain models of Bentley and make drawings

Figure 2. A&R model collection Airfix large scale Bentley [used for drawing above]

Exhibitions, Education, Economics and Entertainment

In the museum context the editors believe that commercial considerations are both necessary and complementary with its educational objectives.

For these reasons our suggested outline Business Plan includes provision for promoting products and services which share Chapman’s ideals of mechanical efficiency and sustainability. In addition we propose merchandising that explain and interprets the social and cultural context of Chapman’s designs in period. It’s suggested there will be catalogue for on line purchasing.

In this instance we suggest the following might be appropriate:-

  • Bentley and Lotus :Little and Large
  • British Racing Green
  • Forty shades of Green :The British at Le Mans
  • Greenland comes to Le Mans
  • Blown Apart
  • Bentley Blowers and the Wind of Change
  • Lotus at Le Mans :Air Currents
  • Chapman and Lotus: Windfall at Le Mans
  • Bentley’s Bottle Green v Lotus Sage Green
  • Lotus Green :Sustainability and Efficiency at Le Mans
  • Lotus and Bentley at Le Mans :Worlds and Wars Apart
  • Lotus lands a heavy Blow at Le Mans
  • Blow ‘in in the wind :Bentley blowers and wind of change at Le Mans


We draw the following contrasts and comparisons between Bentley and Lotus: –

  • Both marques were started by charismatic engineers with a vision for their marques. Evident that these were polarised including markets
  • Both achieved early reputations in front line motor sport competition including Le Mans [with a significant time san between]
  • Both have produced significant models that have become cultural icons
  • Both have continued more recently with differing approaches to racing participation i.e. Bentley reentered Le Mans, Lotus has engaged in one marque series etc. [and in name in F1]
  • Both marques have been known for engineering, craftsmanship and different spectrums
  • Both have been exported and represented the Best of British with active heritage
  • Both possess and eye to the future and adapt to markets, remaining relevant to respective customer bases
  • Both have introduced models less regarded than others yet have bounced back
  • Both have benefited from larger corporate ownership without losing core values
  • Both marques have introduced elements of streamlining but Chapman’s was more scientific and orientated to also derived from aviation engineering practice
  • Bentley had a major reputation between the wars, Lotus in the post war period
  • Both have considerable heritage, legacy, continuity both marques offer momentum and remain active today with strategies into the future

Specifically: –


Relatively recent Bentley has returned successfully to Le Mans

Autocar issue of April ’18 sets out the Bentley range and explains the design group and philosophy prior to electrification. Bentley’s models of recent past and present have included:-

  • Continental
  • Flying Spur
  • Mulsanne
  • Hundaudieres [concept]
  • Azure
  • Arnage
  • Brooklands


Lotus have enjoyed a remarkable success with the Elise and its derivatives .It uses its consultancy arm extensively and in many aspects underpins international automobile design. From the Lotus website: –

“Whether it’s the Lotus Cup Series, where owners of Elise, Exige and Evora can take part in the officially sanctioned series competing on some of the world’s greatest circuits or the British GT where Lotus continues to compete with the Evora GT4 – Lotus DNA is in evidence.”

Our articles identify and interpret Lotus types both race and road. Lotus cultural heritage like Bentley is registered in public psyche through its projection in TV and film.

Current models are: –

Appendix 1: Retail Prices early mid 1950’s

Marque Model Price &UK Tax
AC Ace 2L 1,439
Aston Martin DB3S 3,684
Aston Martin DB2/4 2,728
Bentley Continental 6,609
Bristol 405 3,188
Connaught 1.5L n/a
Connaught Bristol n/a
Cooper Jaguar n/a
Frazer Nash 674
HWM-Jaguar n/a
Kieft “1100” 1,559
Jaguar XK140 1,602
Jaguar D Type 2,685
Lister-Bristol n/a
Lotus Mk.VIII MG n/a

*Bristol 401 [1951] £2,460 [$6,890]

Appendix 2: Bentley EXP Speed 8

Marque Bentley
Model EXP Speed 8
Years 2001 model
Engine V8 alloy block , alloy head
b/s n/a
capacity 3,600cc
valves 4 per cylinder, twin ohc per bank
comp ratio
Fuelling Bosch MS 2.8 electronic
Ignition multi point fuel injection twin Garrett superchargers
power 600bhp @7,000 rpm
torque 479 ft.@7,000 rpm
transmission mid-engine ,rear wheel drive
gearbox Xtrac internals , 6 speed , sequential change
suspension: Front independent , torsion bar wishbones anti roll bar
telescopic hydraulic dampers
Rear independent , torsion bar wishbones anti roll bar
steering  telescopic hydraulic dampers
steering R&P, electronic power assistance
brakes hydraulic , no servo front /rear discs
wheels 18″ dia. centre lock magnesium discs
chassis/body carbon fibre composite material monocoque tub
two door closed coupe race car
composite body shell free standing rear aerofoil for downforce
length 15ft-2.3ins
width 6ft-6.3ins
wheelbase 8ft-11.5ins
track f/r
weight 1,984 lb
max.speed 215 mph
0-60mph 2.3sec
fuel consumption At Le Mans 6mpg approx.


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Please note the editors of the A&R attempt to give the broadest spectrum of references but not all are available for consultation in an article. However by noting their existence it may assist students in their research.

*Items in italics non A&R library books.